Miami Heat

Miami Heat brass, others celebrate life of Dr. Jack Ramsay

The basketball legend who once trained as a Navy underwater demolitions expert would race his sports car across Alligator Alley after Heat games and then swim long distances in the Gulf of Mexico early the next morning.

That was just one small aspect of Dr. Jack Ramsay’s life that was celebrated on Thursday with a funeral Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Naples. Ramsay passed away on Monday after years of fighting cancer. He was 89.

Ramsay’s family and friends reminisced and shared stories of the man his son, Chris Ramsay, eulogized as “a multifaceted man with many interesting sides to his personality and life.”

“He was John T. Ramsay, Coach Ramsay, Jack Ramsay, Dr. Jack, Dad and Pop,” Chris Ramsay said. “Each personality added to and complemented the other — each informing and shaping the other into one unbelievable man.”

Devoted to his family, his faith, basketball and physical fitness, Ramsay lived a full life but more importantly influenced the lives of others. He played and coached at Saint Joseph’s College (now Saint Joseph’s University), and he coached four NBA teams, including the 1977 NBA champion Portland Trail Blazers. After retiring from coaching, Ramsay became one of basketball’s most successful TV broadcasters, working first for the Philadelphia 76ers and Heat and then for ESPN.

Heat president Pat Riley, assistant coach Bob McAdoo, head coach Erik Spoelstra and play-by-play announcer Eric Reid were close friends and attended the service with other members of the Heat’s front office and support staff, including Heat TV analyst and former assistant coach Tony Fiorentino, Heat sideline reporter Jason Jackson, Heat general manager Andy Elisburg and Heat assistant general manager Adam Simon.

“He’s a renaissance guy,” Riley said. “He’s above and beyond the norm.”

During World War II, Ramsay served as a Navy “frogman,” the precursor to Navy SEALs, and trained for an invasion of Japan. Ramsay carried a love of physical fitness throughout his life and was a noted triathlete into his 70s. With a home in Naples for many years, Ramsay would drive across the state at night after Heat games and be in the water early the following morning.

He took his final open swim in the Gulf of Mexico less than two weeks before his death.

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